Making sense of the immensity of the universe
If the Earth is the only habitable planet, what would then be the reason for God to have created billions or trillions of stars and other planets?
Letter from Paulo on January 20, 2004
Paulo, 45, undergrad, spiritistist
Mr. Orlando Fedeli: I would like that you sir, to enlighten me regarding a statement I read in a letter in response to a reader on a related subject of apocryphal Gospels and the Inquisition1. There, among other things, you say that the Earth, “because it is the only inhabited and habitable planet, is the center of the Universe”.
Okay, now I ask you, since it is like this, that is, since the Earth is the only habitable planet, what would be the reason why God created billions or trillions of stars, billions or trillions of galaxies and countless planets? Here is my thought: Since the Earth would be the only habitable planet, there would be no need for all this immensity in the universe. At least it would be more logical and rational. What do you think of all this? Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to put you “against the wall”, I'm just trying to understand, to comprehend a little more about God, about the universe, about the Catholic Church.
Finally, I want to believe, to deepen my faith. And, maybe even go back to my old belief, which was the Catholic faith.
Response from Orlando Fedeli
Dearest Paulo, salve Maria!
What good news you shared with me: that you are thinking of returning to the Catholic Faith, leaving the errors of spiritism behind. I will pray for this to happen as soon as possible, and I will ask everyone at Montfort to pray for this intention.
Dear Paulo, it is scientifically proven that on no other planet in the solar system is possible for human life to exist.
Theoretically, it would not be impossible for God to have created other rational beings on other planets, in [other] Solar Systems so far from Earth that we do not and cannot notice them.
However, in creation we find some principles that are worth considering.
And the first of these is that God creates everything unique.
There will never be, in the universe, another person like you Paulo. You are unique.
Each whale has a sign on its tail that is never repeated in another whale. Each zebra has stripes that are uniquely traced on it, and that are never repeated on another animal of this kind. Every man has not only a unique fingerprint, but a unique voice, a unique eye color, a unique personality.
Therefore, it is normal that the Earth is also the only planet that meets the hundreds of conditions necessary for life to exist.
Another principle of Creation is the “generosity” of the Creator.
Everything God creates has billions of individual beings in each species. There are billions of fish in the sea. There are billions of ants and birds. There are billions and billions of stars in the sky.
You ask me why God would have created the stars and so many planets if not to be inhabited.
This can be understood through another principle of creation which is that of symbology.
Every creature symbolizes some value of God, some divine quality, for Saint Paul — your patron — teaches, in the Epistle to the Romans, that
After creation, the invisible qualities of God, through the created things became visible (See Rom 1 , 20)
Of course, the stars have very important material functions. Just think of the Sun. If it didn't exist, we wouldn't have life. But if there were no moon, life would also be impossible. It is the astronomical balance that maintains the order of the universe. If a star disappeared from the solar system, the Earth would change its orbit in relation to the Sun, and we would be burned quickly.
However, in addition to this cosmic balance that allows life to exist on earth, the stars, which shine in the night, teach us that there is no absolute darkness, that is, that there is no absolute evil.
The stars teach us that, no matter how dark the night in our souls, there are always stars to give us hope, because God does not abandon anyone. The stars are the promise that the light will return, that the sun will be reborn.
In a very interesting play, a French poet — Paul Claudel, a namesake of yours — makes a materialist ask, why don't the stars fall from the sky and turn into potatoes for us?
It is a clear criticism of the materialist view that only sees reason to exist in material utility, and in food.
The stars in the sky are there to guide us, and for us to aspire to the beauty of paradise, after all the beauty of the material sky is enormous. There is no man who, looking at the starry sky, does not wonder who made this luminous beauty and why?
The stars force us to lift our eyes to the sky, and to forget about futility, in order to love higher values.
Please forgive me for the very succinct explanation for my lack of time (I have about 400 letters to answer).
But I want to send you — since you want to deepen your Faith, and since you think about returning to the Church where you were baptized — a reflection of Saint Bernard on the star that guides the navigator and Mary Most Holy, our Mother who guides us to Christ and heaven. [It is a very beautiful text that I will offer you due to my poor words, so St. Bernard will complete... ]
“And the name of the Virgin was Mary” (Luke 1, 27)
Let us take a moment to consider this name, which, it is said, means Star of the Sea and which perfectly suits the Virgin Mother.
There is nothing more just than comparing her to a star that emits its rays without being altered in itself, just as the Virgin gives birth to her Son without any injury to her body. The ray takes nothing away from the luminosity of its star, and the birth of the Son does not diminish the Virgin's integrity.
She is, therefore, that magnificent star of Jacob, whose rays light up the whole universe, light up the sky and penetrate even the hells. The Virgin, shining over the whole Earth, warms souls more than bodies, favors the growth of virtues and destroys vices.
She is truly that most beautiful star that must necessarily rise above the immense sea, all shining with merits and illuminating examples.
O you, whoever you are, if you understand that your life, more than a voyage on dry land, is a navigation between storms and hurricanes, on the shifting waves of time, do not take your eyes off the light of that star, in order to avoid shipwreck.
When the winds of temptation attack you, when you see the pitfalls of misfortune appear, look at the star, invoke Mary.
If you are tossed by the waves of pride, ambition, slander, envy, look at the star, invoke Mary.
If anger, avarice, carnal seductions come to shake the light boat of your soul, lift your eyes, look at Mary.
If, disturbed by the atrocious memory of your crimes, ashamed at the sight of the filth of your conscience, terrified by the threat of God's judgment, you begin to sink into the whirlpool of sadness and the abyss of despair, think of Mary.
In dangers, in anguish, in doubts, think of Mary, invoke Mary.
May her name never leave your lips, never leave your heart. And, to obtain the help of her intercession, do not depart from the example of her life. By following her, you will not get lost; beseeching her, you shalt not know despair; by thinking of her, you will avoid every mistake.
If she helps you, you will not be shipwrecked. If she protects you, you will have nothing to fear. If she leads you, you will not get tired. If she is favorable to you, you will reach the goal. And so you will know from your own experience all that these words mean: “And the name of the Virgin was Mary”
May Our Lady guide you, dear Paul, and as soon as possible, to the port of salvation, which exists only in the Roman Catholic Church, is what I wish you with all my soul and
in Corde Jesu, semper,
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